America Adores the British Royal Family—Possibly More than Actual British People

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America’s obsession with the British royal family seems to have kicked into overdrive recently, thanks to the combination of two new royal babies (George and Charlotte, offspring of William and Kate) and the 20th Anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. Earlier this month, ABC News presented The Last 100 Days of Diana, and we can expect another documentary about her on HBO later this year. Royal fever has also undoubtedly increased thanks to The Crown on Netflix, and Victoria on PBS.

It's not just television either. Stories about the Windsors grace the covers of American magazines on a regular basis—everything from In Touch to Vanity Fair (the latter being borderline obsessive about its royalty coverage, even when it comes to bit-players like Pippa Middleton)—regardless of the fact that the British royal family have little to nothing to do with the United States.

Almost all American coverage of England's monarchy is consistently reverential and keen. Sometimes, it can feel a little bit like everyone is scared to step off that path, lest they be in violation of some obscure royal protocol. Thankfully, John Oliver's Last Week Tonight has offered a hilarious exception to the rule:

The key thing to note, in regards to Oliver, is that not only is he one of the only journalists in America offering a critical look at the monarchy, he also happens to be English himself. He is a reflection of the fact that, while America frequently assumes that the UK is packed, coast-to-coast, with people who adore the Queen and her extended family, the truth is a lot more complicated.


There are, of course, thousands of traditionalists on the royal family's home soil who are married to the idea that Britain without a monarchy would simply be terribly un-British. And truthfully, polls repeatedly show that a majority of British citizens back hanging onto the monarchy. But it should also be taken into account that the UK is awash with people who despise having a royal family and would jump at the chance to get rid of it—something rarely touched upon in international coverage. is the most organized and vocal wing of the anti-royal movement. Most recently, the organization has begun campaigning for a referendum to be held on the future of England's monarchy, after Queen Elizabeth II's death. Yes, there is an entire organization in England right now, just waiting for the Queen to die, so they can attempt to get rid of her family in its entirety.

If you want to get a better sense of how different royal coverage is in the British media versus the American one, a quick Google search turns up a wealth of proof that the family's position at the top of the national hierarchy is up for regular discussion and not exactly a done deal. "Why are we subsidizing the royal family at a time of gross inequality?" asked The Guardian in 2014. Earlier this year, Huffington Post UK published an article titled "Is it Time to Scrap the Monarchy?" Even pro-royal newspapers like The Daily Mail seem to think the family's days in power might be drawing to a close.

The truth is, a fair amount of Brits just don't particularly like having to pay for the gilded lifestyles of wealthy overlords. Since 2012, the royal family has been funded by something called The Sovereign Grant. The system before that was more convoluted, but the principal was the same: it is and always has been British taxpayers that pay for the royal family to go about their business. This year, they are expected to receive £45.6 million simply for being born into the right gene pool.

Some outside estimates that make a point of factoring in additional security expenses—incurred by both the Metropolitan Police and local councils—claim that the cost to the UK taxpayer for the royal family annually is actually closer to £300 million. Which, for a nation of only 65 million people, can be a bitter pill to swallow—especially in the midst of ever-tightening austerity measures and a currency currently struggling under the weight of Brexit-related uncertainty.

The main argument around keeping the royal family in place is related to tourism. In 2015, Brand Finance estimated that, even after the family's exorbitant expenses, the British monarchy still brought £1.155 billion ($1.8 billion) into the UK economy. What this doesn't factor in, however, is the fact that tourists don't come to Britain to hang out with the royal family—they come to see the palaces, manors and castles dotted around the entirety of the UK, as well as the Dungeons and Tower of London, associated with the long history of the nation. Arguably, those would still be attractions, whether or not the royal family still existed. In fact, not having a Queen living in there would probably open the doors of Buckingham Palace to the public to a much greater degree than is currently on offer.

In 2014, 69% of people taking part in an ICM poll said Britain would be worse off without a monarchy. In 2016, according to a poll of 1,000 people, conducted by the Independent, that figure had risen—probably buoyed by the Queen's Jubilee and new grandchildren—to 76%. That does, however, still leave nearly a quarter of the country wondering exactly what they're getting out of this.

In recent history, public anti-royal feeling in the UK was at its strongest in the immediate aftermath of Princess Diana's death in 1997. The public anger at the time was directed towards what was viewed as an unsympathetic Palace, and prompted a major—and much-needed—shift in how the Windsors conducted themselves. They have since made a distinct effort to embrace modernity in ways that were not possible, pre-Diana.


In the end, it's unlikely that the British monarchy is going anywhere any time soon. The family still has the backing of most of its subjects and has been working its PR machine hard to keep it that way since the post-Diana backlash. But it's important to acknowledge the push back still taking place in the corners of the UK that are frustrated by a social system that can frequently seem antiquated and unfair to many. Given what we in America celebrate every Fourth of July, it's surprising our media doesn't acknowledge those frustrations more often.